End April / 7 day tour / Southern Israel

Part 1

Our end of April 7-day birding tour in Southern Israel was a great success. Even though we encountered some hard weather conditions, things turned out for the best, and better.

[+] Click the pictures to enlarge

April 25th

I met Yohan van Ginneken who came from the Netherlands and Brent Van Fossen at 6:30 and we were off to the Eilat Mountains . Migration was quite slow, but we did manage to get about 500 Raptors, the bulk being Steppe Buzzards, with Honey Buzzards and Levant Sparrowhawks spicing things up. Already at the raptor watchpoint the guys were impressed by the dramatic landscape and the proximity of the birds. We enjoyed great views of White-crowned Black Wheatear, Sand Partridge and a displaying Desert Lark. At the K20 salt pools we found many waders but the highlight were 2 beautiful summer plumaged Red-necked Phalarope .

Blue Cheecked Bee eater
Blue-cheecked Bee eater [+]

As customary on the first afternoon of the tour, we birded around Lotan. The beauty of this time of year is that we cover many different bird groups and after watching raptors and waders in the morning, we devoted the afternoon to passerines. Between the singing Rufous Bush Robins and the commoner birds we also found 1 Semi-collared Flycatcher, 1 Upchers and one Olive Tree Warbler.  

April 26th

We spent the morning at K33 sand flats. We had poor luck with Larks but enjoyed superb views of 2 Barbary Falcons perched and good numbers of hirundines. Brent spent some time photographing a pair of Stone Curlews with a chick 10 minutes from Lotan.

Raging south winds brought large amounts of sand over the valley and the hard conditions meant only one thing, Eilat North beach. The beach was full of people on holiday, but the birds were plentiful and gave superb views in the afternoon light.

White-crowned Black Wheatear
White-crowned Black Wheatear [+]

In just 90 minutes of seawatching we had 4 Arctic Skuas, 4 Pomarine Skuas, Cory's Shearwater, 10 White-eyed Gulls, and many terns. Large flocks of Shoveler, circled over the bay, and a calling wader proved to be a beautiful Oystercatcher, a rare bird in Eilat.

We capped off the day at a traditional spot for drinking Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse. 20 birds flew in, drank and left in their enigmatic sort of way.

April 27th

This morning we headed up to the southern Negev plateu and the Ovda valley. We stopped at a traditional spot for sandgrouse and were rewarded with good views of 12 Spotted Sandgrouse. We then visited a patch of trees and noticed a few Honey Buzzards roosting in the cliffs around. In the trees we found a few Levant Sparrowhawks and a scan of a nearby rock face provided us with a beautiful summer plumaged House Bunting. We set out to look for desert birds and found both Mourning and Hooded Wheatears. As the air heated, we noticed raptors passing overhead. Yohan was treated to his first ever Steppe Eagles , and some 300 raptors passed in a few minutes. 6 flying Crowned Sandgrouse were another highlight of the morning.

Levant Sparrowhawks
Levant Sparrowhawks [+]

The afternoon was spent at Neot Smadars beautiful lake where the lush habitat and reeds attract birds not seen elsewhere in the area, like Sedge Warbler. We had great luck with Purple Heron , 1 Little Bittern, 1 Little Crake and a beautiful group of 12 Pale Rock Sparrrows that came down to drink, it is truly a magical place.

We finished the day at Ketura Botanical gardens where we found 2 Collared Flycatchers and enjoyed all 3 Bee Eater species hawking around for insects.

April 28th

We were joined by Martin Epstein from the states for his first Israeli birding experience.

The morning was spent at a raptor watchpoint, but the haze and east winds through most birds off course. Unfortunately the wind grew stronger and we tried a quick drive through k20 salt pools. We did manage to find 6 Baltic Gulls between the pools and some waders, but the wind forced us to give up.

Barbary Falcon
Barbary Falcon [+]

In the afternoon I decided to try Yotvata fields. This turned out to be a good choice and we had many good birds but the highlight came late in the afternoon when I found a male Black-crowned Finch Lark. This attractive small Lark is extremely rare in Israel , and this was the first record since 1989 (!). Yohan and Martin were thrilled and so was I, this being a lifer for me as well, and a highly coveted species in the past years. A day that was cut short by the harsh winds, proved to be a big day in the southern Arava.

Namaqua Dove
Namaqua Dove [+]

Continue to Part 2 >>

Contact info

Daphna Abell
Program Coordinator

Tel: +972 8 6356935;
Toll Free: 1800 2000 75 (when in Israel)

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